The Swedish tastebud is a fascinating thing.
Swedish cuisine is centred around dairy products, crisp and soft breads, berries, stone fruits, beef, chicken, lamb, pork and seafood. These items are served with a potato side dish. Savoury dishes are often served with sweet ones (think meatballs and lingonberries). Soups are usually sweet and cold and made of fruits (think rose hip and blueberry soup).
Because of its proximity to the sea and the way trade was conducted in ancient Sweden, fish like cod, salmon and herring have been central to Swedish cooking.
Laxpudding also known as Salmon pudding
Then there are the famous Swedish meatballs, popularised by IKEA.
According to the locals, the best meatballs are the ones you make at home though (so I tried).
The swedes eat many things from tubes, kaviar for example. A famous local brand is called Kalles, salted caviar in a tube. But it doesn’t taste as regular caviar tastes. It’s less fishy, more salty and creamy and the roe is usually smaller. It’s an acquired taste, let’s put it that way.
Havnming said that, Kalles had a series of amazingly funny advertisements on the Swedish favourite.
While meatballs and salmon are Nordic in nature, the next savoury dish is Mediterranean fusion in a Swedish way – kebab pizza, with middle eastern Kebab meat and cream put on top of a pizza. Kebabs were first introduced to Sweden by immigrants who reached the north in the 1970s. They introduced popular middle eastern favourites like Kebabs and Falafel which have been adopted as part of the Swedish cuisine. The city of Malmo has so many falafel stands it is an institution there it is practically the capital of falafel.
The swedish tastebud is extra fascinating because of the deserts, snacks and pastries that are a way of life.
In very few places in the world will a grown man buying pick and mix sweets for himself be seen as socially acceptable, it is here. Every saturday (Lorndag) is also sweets day, Lordagsgodis and children are allowed to stuff themselves with sweets and parents join in the fun. Look at the broad selection of sweets!
Chocolates are also popular. Yes, everything below is chocolate and its not just eaten by children. Heck there weren’t even children in the shop.
I’m not complaining 😉 These sweets and chocolates are amazing treats.
But how do the swedes stay so slim and fit though!
The most popular item in its candy culture, is not gummy bears or extremely sweet stuff, its a way more complex flavour – salted licorice.
Literally licorice sweets doused in salt. Don’t believe how popular it is? Look at how empty the salted licorice box was compared to the rest.
Salted licorice seems similar in concept to the main meals above – think of the salty and sweet mix of meatballs and lingonberries – maybe a kind of Lagom. Lagom is a concept of things being balanced or just right and not in the extreme. And sweets that are not too sweet and not too salty seems in keeping with the culture.
Salted licorice sounds like a weird idea at first, but its strangely addictive…
Then there’s the kanelbullar or cinnamon buns and increasingly, cardamom buns.
These are really important pastries in Sweden. To appreciate their role, you need to understand fika. A daily ritual usually where people take a few minutes off work to have a coffee and a bun and spend some social time with each other. This brief coffee break is an institution in Sweden and can happen anytime in the day.
It’s so important there is a day called Kanelbullardag (Cinnamon bun day) where people eat cinnamon buns without guilt… and they should because a well made cinnamon bun a taste of heaven really.
The swedish tastebud is a rather underrated cuisine and this post barely scratches the surface, but the Swedish tongue is really worth exploring.
Yea that came out way more suggestive that it should have.